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Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.” – e. e. cummings

 

I’ve been thinking about how our questions define who we are today, and who we will become.

At a conference last week, I attended a session focused on questions. Not scientific questions or the questions we ask others in clinical practice – the focus was on questions that we ask ourselves. This inspired me to think about some of the big questions I should be asking.

Here are three of my top questions for 2015-16:

  1. What do I want more of in my life?
  2. How can I better contribute?
  3. Where do I need to work harder, and where can I scale it back?

 

To paraphrase Voltaire:

“Judge a person by their questions rather than by their answers”.

 

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We all go to school. Every day.

 

Tuition costs are highly variable, and sometimes paid a long time after.

Our teachers are many.

We’re teachers too.

 

Where is your classroom today?

 

 

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Learning how to learn and deciding how to decide

 

We are all lifelong learners, and this has got me thinking about the learning that occurs outside of formal, post-secondary classrooms via the series of decisions, big and small, that comprise each person’s life path. In clinical/professional practice, critical judgment and decision-making are key, and we get to hone these skills every day in the multiplicity of choices that we are continuously called to make.

Sometimes the implications and outcomes of making one choice over another are clear; but a lot of the time there’s mighty thick cloud cover. On those occasions I have found myself wishing for a crystal ball to foresee the results of a specific decision before I decide. And maybe some future convergence of digital technology and computing (“the singularity”) will offer an uber-intelligent clarity and vision to better inform which direction to take. But at this time we pretty much weigh our options and just do the best we can.

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So, I’ve been wondering…is life’s learning trajectory essentially based on how we navigate through our own individual series of crossroads? For example…

 

We have to make many decisions without benefit of much experience or perspective to guide us:

Which high school? What’s after that? What’s my career path? How do I approach parenting? Do I choose to be a parent?

 

Some decisions are made either by default (inertia, status quo), or because we are willing to take a chance and leap into the unknown:

Start a relationship or end the relationship? Take the job or leave the job? Stick close to home or move to a whole new place?

 

Some decisions can be heartbreaking, and represent a lack of positive choices at all:

Do I pay the rent or feed the kids? Support the family or get an education?

 

And many crossroads test our own moral compass and integrity:

Should I speak out or follow the pack? Stand up and take action or do nothing?

 

crossroads house

 

The chaotic complexity of an individual’s inward/outward subjective experience and learning is never still. Each person’s journey accretes a unique composition and form. And every decision point at every crossroads iteratively informs the ones still to come.

Through this lens, effectively teaching professional decision-making might rest on our ability to come alongside learners, and link our vast, collective landscape of lifelong learning with discrete and situational reflective practice. In other words, the ultimate “meta crossroads” are learning how to learn and deciding how to decide. Over and over. Each and every day.

 

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